Truly Welcoming Visitors on Easter

In almost every congregation, Easter is the most attended Sunday morning of the year.  Many congregations feature additional services to provide these religious consumers with the greatest number of options possible and to ensure that there is room (especially parking and seating) for everyone.  Most parishes seek to do what they can to ensure visitors have a positive experience and are likely to visit again.  Toward that end, I suggest:

  • Providing an extravagant welcome is not something that can be turned on and off like a switch.  Instead, it must become a part of your congregational DNA.  When it is an addition or an aberration it will never succeed; when it is a part of the culture it is automatically scalable for occasions such as Easter.
  • Infrequent church attenders, especially those who attend four or less times a year, are unlikely to shift to being frequent attenders who are present for worship almost every Sunday morning.  When designing marketing materials for this group (both those printed and distributed in worship and those available online) emphasize the variety of your programmatic and relational offerings.  Be sure to include clear directions about who to contact for more information and how to get involved.  Also, refrain from the use of acronyms or church-speak (words that may be unfamiliar or are not in common usage in our culture).
  • If you want to know how well you are doing, ask.  Be sure to seek input from those within your target demographic.  This is the best way to evaluate whether or not your new initiatives reach their intended audience in the ways desired.

So What?

It is easy to categorize Easter Sunday as a numeric success based on attendance, but much harder to thoroughly evaluate and learn from the experience of your congregation’s many visitors.

  • Would you characterize your church as providing an extravagant welcome? Why/why not?
  • How many upcoming activities were listed in the worship bulletin or programmatic insert given to all worship attendees on Easter morning?  Did each include contact information and avoid church-speak?  Are several “new” offerings listed (ongoing activities can be intimidating for newcomers who may assume they will be the only visitor)?
  • When is the last time your congregation collected data from visitors who chose not to return or become an active part of your faith community?  How did you leverage that data to initiate change?

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